Today's coronavirus news: Ontario reports 591 new cases, 7 deaths; Vaccines for kids begin in Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba – Toronto Star

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Wednesday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.
8:25 p.m.: The Liberal government on Wednesday introduced its newest — and what it hopes to be its last — pandemic aid legislation, proposing a scaled-back suite of financial supports for Canadians still bruised by the public health crisis.
“Bill C-2 is designed with an understanding that our economic recovery is still uneven, and that the public health measures that are saving lives continue to restrict some economic activity,” Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters.
“I see this legislation as very much the last step in our COVID support programs,” she added. “It is what I really hope and truly believe is the final pivot.”
Freeland introduced the aid bill one month after she first announced that the Canada Response Benefit, as well as the emergency wage and rent subsidy programs, would wind down on Oct. 23. At the time, she said those programs would be swapped out and revamped into $7.4 billion worth of targeted supports for workers facing local lockdowns, those in the tourism and hospitality sectors and other hard-hit businesses.
The deputy prime minister also said that eligibility for Ottawa’s caregiving and sickness benefits would be extended until May 7, 2022. The Canada Recovery Hiring Benefit — for employers who need support covering employee wages — would also be extended until that date.
Read the full story here from Raisa Patel
7:08 p.m.: British Columbia is reporting nine new deaths from COVID-19 as the number of eligible people getting vaccinated against the virus climbs.
The new figures bring the death toll from the virus in B.C. to 2,313.
The province says it has recorded 322 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 3,015 active cases.
It says 91 per cent of eligible people have received their first dose of a vaccine and 87.4 per cent of eligible people have received a second dose. Of the active cases, 318 were in hospital and 109 were in intensive care.
The province says people not fully vaccinated against the virus accounted for 58.1 per cent of cases in the past two weeks.
5:45 p.m.: In the four months since Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a gamble by lifting virtually all of England’s coronavirus restrictions, his country has settled into a disquieting new normal: more than 40,000 new cases a day and 1,000 or so fatalities every week.
Yet those grim numbers have put Britain “almost at herd immunity,” one of the government’s most influential scientific advisers said this week — a much-discussed but elusive epidemiological state that some experts say could leave the country well placed to resist the fresh wave of infections now sweeping across continental Europe.
The comments, made in an interview by Neil Ferguson, a public health researcher at Imperial College in London — whose projections about the pandemic have often swayed government policy — are likely to revive the debate about Britain’s status as a COVID-19 outlier: a country willing to tolerate a widely circulating virus and a steady death toll as the price of a return to economic normalcy.
They may also touch a nerve in a nation where herd immunity has been a fraught concept since it was raised by Patrick Vallance, England’s chief scientific adviser, in March 2020 as the virus was first bearing down on Britain. His openness to the advantages of herd immunity provoked such a backlash that, ever since, the government has rejected any suggestion that it embraces such a strategy.
4:30 p.m.: There were stickers, therapy dogs, superheroes — and yes, a few tears — as Quebec and Saskatchewan children between the ages of five and 11 began receiving COVID-19 shots at mass vaccination clinics on Wednesday.
Manitoba announced Wednesday afternoon that it had also started vaccinations — a day ahead of schedule — due to shipments of the pediatric vaccine arriving earlier than expected.
The start of vaccinations for under-12s marks another chapter in Canada’s immunization effort, as provinces race to get shots into as many arms as possible before the holiday season.
Bookings for pediatric vaccines opened in Ontario on Tuesday, and the province said more than 93,000 appointments had been made through the provincial booking system by 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Alberta and British Columbia have announced plans to begin vaccinating children under 12 in the coming days. New Brunswick and P.E.I. plan to start Friday, and Newfoundland and Labrador says vaccinations at community clinics will begin as early as Saturday.
Manitoba got a jump start on Wednesday, moving up its previous plans by a day. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead with the province’s vaccine implementation group, said Wednesday there are enough vaccines to provide a first dose to all 125,000 children in the five-to-11 age group.
Health Canada approved for children a modified version of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last week, and the agency says the vaccine is almost 91 per cent effective. Canada is expecting an accelerated delivery of 2.9 million child-sized doses, which is enough for every child aged five to 11.
4:00 p.m. The Trudeau Liberals have outlined their latest aid package for an economy recovering from COVID-19, proposing targeted financial support to businesses still recovering from the pandemic, help for some workers, and extra weeks of benefits that expired just days ago.
The Liberals are proposing to send income-support payments of $300 per week to workers who find themselves off the job because of a “COVID-19-related public health lockdown in their region” between now and spring 2022.
Those payments would be retroactive to Oct. 24 when the Liberals decided to let a pandemic-era benefit for the unemployed expire. The Canada Recovery Benefit’s siblings — sickness and caregiver benefits — would each get revived after expiring this past weekend with two more weeks of eligibility until May 7.
Wage and rent subsidies for businesses would be more generous and targeted over that same period to still-hurting tourism, culture and hospitality sectors, as well as a long list of companies like movie theatres, arcades, casinos and gyms, so long as they can prove a deep and prolonged revenue loss.
The government also plans to extend to May a hiring credit for companies that add to their payrolls by boosting wages, rehiring laid-off workers or new hires, which doesn’t require as deep a revenue loss to qualify.
3:55 p.m.: Prince Edward Island reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.
Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the new cases included one person in their 60s, four in their 50s, one in their 30s and one in their 20s.
Morrison said two new cases involved people who had recently travelled outside the province, and she said five involved close contacts of previously reported infections.
She said two of the five cases that were linked to prior infections came from a cluster that began in Prince County, and she said three cases were linked to a separate workplace outbreak that was under investigation.
The Island has 36 active reported cases of COVID-19. Health officials have identified 363 cases in the province since the pandemic began.
3:04 p.m. Ontario says 93,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments were booked for kids between the ages of five and 11 as of Wednesday morning.
The figure covers the provincial booking system and doesn’t include other bookings made through local public health units, pharmacies and primary care offices offering the shots.
The province opened bookings for kids in that age group on Tuesday morning.
Ten children who are patients with SickKids hospital in Toronto became the first in the province to receive the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech doses on Tuesday afternoon.
Kid-friendly clinics are scheduled to start in earnest on Thursday, though a few began Wednesday.
1:55 p.m. Nova Scotia is expected to receive its first shipment of pediatric COVID-19 vaccine this week, with the first shots for children aged five to 11 to be available by Dec. 2.
Details of the rollout, however, will have to wait until there is certainty on the date and time of the vaccine’s arrival, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said Wednesday.
“We will open up appointments and this will be released publicly,” Strang told reporters. “Pharmacies and the IWK Health Centre (in Halifax) will be our main vaccinators.”
New Brunswick has said it planned to start vaccinating children on Friday, while Newfoundland and Labrador has said its campaign for children could begin on Saturday. In P.E.I., the first of five community-based clinics for kids is scheduled to open Friday.
1:55 p.m. COVID-19 vaccinations for children in Yukon between the ages of five and 11 will start in early December.
Premier Sandy Silver says being able to vaccinate kids is what the territory “has been waiting for.” He encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible.
Yukon has 121 active cases and the territory’s acting chief medical officer of health, Dr. André Corriveau, says health-care workers are seeing the rate of active cases beginning to drop.
The territory has also launched its vaccination verification smartphone app, which will help businesses confirm a person’s vaccination status.
Silver says no private data will be stored on the app and it will help make life easier for businesses and people.
12:55 p.m. Dr. Fauci has a message for America: Get ready to roll up your sleeve, again.
The nation’s top infectious disease expert said the “overwhelming number” of adults should eventually get an additional vaccine shot to boost their immunity against COVID-19.
“We’d like to get as many people who were originally vaccinated with the first regimen boosted,” Fauci told Reuters in an interview.
Fauci predicted that only those who have received a booster shot will be considered fully vaccinated in the future.
About 60 per cent of all Americans have been fully vaccinated so far. Out of those, an additional 33 million Americans have received a booster dose.
12:40 p.m. Children in Quebec are rolling up their sleeves today for COVID-19 shots as provinces launch the next stage of the country’s immunization effort.
Quebec’s campaign to inoculate kids with first doses by Christmas began this morning at mass vaccination centres, and it will be expanded to schools next week.
Premier François Legault wrote on Twitter that some 115,300 appointments have already been booked for the five-to-11 age cohort, which is the most recent to be made eligible for the vaccine.
Ontario administered its first pediatric vaccines to a handful of children at Toronto’s SickKids hospital yesterday afternoon, and the government plans to begin vaccinating kids in earnest on Thursday in clinics across the province.
11:50 a.m. Quebec is reporting 882 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and one more death attributed to the coronavirus.
COVID-19-related hospitalizations rose by eight from the prior day, to 211, after 27 patients entered hospital and 19 were discharged.
The number of people in intensive care remained unchanged at 46. Health workers gave another 6,556 vaccine doses in the previous 24 hours.
11 a.m. Nova Scotia is reporting 20 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 31 more recoveries from the disease.
Health officials say there are 18 people in hospital with COVID-19, including six in intensive care.
Officials say there are no new cases of COVID-19 at the East Cumberland Lodge long-term care home in Pugwash, N.S.
A total of 32 residents and 11 staff members at the home have tested positive, and three residents have died of the disease.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang says COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five to 11 are expected to arrive in the province this week and that the first doses should be administered by Dec. 2.
10:20 a.m. (will be updated) Ontario is reporting 591 new COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths from the virus on Wednesday.
Health Minister Christine Elliott says 307 of the new cases are in people who are not fully vaccinated and 47 people have unknown vaccination status.
There were 137 people in intensive care with COVID-related critical illness, including 84 patients on ventilators.
As of Tuesday, there were seven patients from Saskatchewan in Ontario intensive care units.
The province says 86 per cent of residents aged 12 and older have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 89 per cent have at least one dose.
9:21 a.m. It might seem fair to assume the York Regional Police officer you’re dealing with is double-vaccinated.
Problem is, you might be wrong.
Public organizations, especially those with unions, have been struggling with their vaccine policies for some time and York police are no different.
Many have gone the mandatory vaccine route — all paramedics in York Region are vaccinated and many firefighters risk losing their jobs if they ignore their municipalities’ vaccine mandates. Toronto police must also be double vaccinated by Nov. 30 or face being put on unpaid leave.
8:30 a.m. A man who sent a bomb hoax to a U.K. coronavirus vaccine factory and similar parcels elsewhere, including a laboratory in Wuhan, China, was sentenced to more than two years in prison on Wednesday.
About 120 people had to be evacuated from a plant in Wales producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca shots in January after Anthony Collins, 54, sent a suspicious package there. The British army’s bomb disposal unit was called and production of the vaccine was halted, but the batch was salvaged later after bomb experts found no explosives in the parcel.
Detective Inspector Adam Marshall said Collins “was fully aware of the impact his actions would have and chose to impede the vaccine rollout when the program was still in its infancy.”
7:30 a.m. An elementary school in Etobicoke is being closed due to a COVID-19 investigation, Toronto Public Health said Tuesday.
The French-language École élémentaire Micheline-Saint-Cyr will be closed to in-person activities starting Wednesday to prevent further transmission of the coronavirus within the school community, the agency said. It’s not clear how long the closure will last.
Read the full story from the Star’s Eric LeBlanc
7:20 a.m. Malaysia and Singapore said Wednesday they will partially reopen their borders next week to fully vaccinated citizens and some others, after nearly two years of closure due to the pandemic that had stranded many Malaysian workers in the neighboring city-state away from their families.
Leaders from both countries said limited travel will be allowed across the land border from Monday, with plans to gradually relax restrictions. Air travel will reopen on the same day to fully vaccinated passengers, allowing quarantine-free travel between the two countries, with fewer restrictions.
Travelers crossing the Causeway Bridge that connects the island of Singapore with the Malaysian peninsula must be citizens, permanent residents or long-term pass holders, according to separate statements from the leaders of both governments. In the first phase, the number of travelers crossing the land border per day will be limited to 2,880 and required to travel on designated bus services, the statements said.
The Causeway was one of the world’s busiest land borders before the pandemic struck.
6:15 a.m. Determined to reclaim Thanksgiving traditions that were put on pause last year by the pandemic, millions of Americans will be loading up their cars or piling onto planes to gather again with friends and family.
The number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels, and auto club AAA predicts that 48.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday period, an increase of nearly 4 million over last year despite sharply higher gasoline prices.
Many feel emboldened by the fact that nearly 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. But it also means brushing aside concerns about a resurgent virus at a time when the U.S. is now averaging nearly 100,000 new infections a day and hospitals in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona are seeing alarming increases in patients.
6:05 a.m. Germany is set to mark 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week, passing a somber milestone that several of its neighbors crossed months ago but which Western Europe’s most populous nation had hoped to avoid.
Teutonic discipline, a robust health care system and the rollout of multiple vaccines — one of them homegrown — were meant to stave off a winter surge of the kind that hit Germany last year.
Yet complacency and a national election, followed by a drawn-out government transition, saw senior politicians dangle the prospect of further lifting restrictions even as Germany’s infection rate rose steadily this fall.
“Nobody had the guts to take the lead and announce unpopular measures,” said Uwe Janssens, who heads the intensive care department at the St. Antonius hospital in Eschweiler, west of Cologne. “This lack of leadership is the reason we are here now.”
6 a.m. The head of a trucking industry association says thousands of Canadian truckers won’t be vaccinated against COVID-19 by a deadline imposed by governments on both sides of the border, throwing a supply chain already stretched thin by the global pandemic into even more chaos.
“This is making a bad situation a lot worse. It’s the perfect storm,” said Stephen Laskowski, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
A mid-January deadline for the vaccine mandate was announced by the U.S. in mid-October. Last week, Canada announced a Jan. 15 deadline for truckers crossing into this country.
Based on reports from trucking companies, Laskowski estimates that up to 20 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truckers who regularly cross into the U.S. might not be vaccinated by the time the deadline rolls around.
Read more from the Star’s Josh Rubin.
5:45 a.m. Conservative MPs will oppose a government proposal today to return to a hybrid format in the House of Commons, which has allowed MPs to participate virtually in proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conservative deputy leader Candice Bergen says her party fears hybrid sittings “let the government off the hook” and give ministers an excuse not to turn up to answer questions in the Commons.
MPs will today debate whether to resume the hybrid format, with both the Liberals and NDP supporting the move. They argue that it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and allows MPs who are ill, or have sick family members, the ability to participate from their homes or offices.
The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois both want to fully return to normal in-person sittings.
Bergen argued that the hybrid format is designed to protect the government from “scrutiny and accountability,” not to protect Canadians from the deadly virus.
The NDP backs the hybrid format because it allows all MPs — including those forced to self-isolate if they come in contact with someone with COVID-19 — to take part in Commons proceedings.
5:30 a.m. Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic soared to a new record high, reaching almost 26,000 daily cases, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
The daily tally hit 25,864 on Tuesday, about 3,000 more than the previous record registered on Friday.
The country’s infection rate has risen to 1,061 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, almost twice as many as two weeks ago.
As infections soar, the government has been considering mandatory vaccination for certain groups of people, including the elderly, medical and military personnel and police officers.
Just over 58% of the Czech population has been fully vaccinated.
5:15 a.m. Two Conservative MPs on the committee that imposed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate on Parliament Hill sat out the vote, one revealed Tuesday as their party formally objected to the way the rule was imposed.
Conservative whip Blake Richards said he and Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell abstained from voting when the board of internal economy decided last month that everyone working in the Parliament buildings needed to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — or have a medical exemption from being vaccinated — by the start of Parliament this week.
Committee decisions are made by consensus and behind closed doors, making Richards’s admission on the floor of the House of Commons very unusual.
Read more from the Star’s Stephanie Levitz.
5 a.m. COVID-19 was a contributing cause in the recent death in Alberta of a child who was less than two years old, the province said Tuesday.
The news emerged the same day Alberta officials announced that parents will be able to start booking vaccination appointments for children ages five to 11 this week.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, addressed the death of the young child at a news conference.
“While I will note that this child had complex pre-existing medical conditions that played a significant role, this does not diminish the tragic loss of one so young,” Hinshaw said.
Read the full story from the Star’s Kieran Leavitt.
4:45 a.m. Clinics in Regina and Saskatoon are to begin immunizing children between five and 11 years old against COVID-19 today.
More clinics are to open in smaller centres on Thursday.
Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday that more than 12,000 appointments for youngsters had been booked.
He is encouraging all families to get vaccinated and has pointed out that children will need to have parental consent to receive a shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s pediatric vaccine.
Saskatchewan is receiving 112,000 initial doses, nearly enough to give a first dose to 115,000 kids in the younger age group.
Moe says making the vaccines accessible to all families is key to having a successful rollout for children.
4:30 a.m. Parents seeking to book more than one child for a COVID-19 shot can use the provincial telephone hotline to get appointments together, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday amid concerns about difficulties with the online system.
Her advice came after the NDP revealed many parents could not get back-to-back appointments for their children through the province’s online portal as bookings for the Pfizer vaccine opened for those ages five to 11.
The snag has left busy moms and dads with appointments for their children at different times, on different days and in different places, New Democrat MPP Catherine Fife (Waterloo) charged in the legislature’s daily question period, calling the problem a “design flaw.”
Read more from the Star’s Rob Ferguson.
4 a.m. The British Columbia is expected to release details of a paid sick leave program for workers today.
Labour Minister Harry Bains has scheduled a news conference with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry about a permanent program on sick leave, which has been promised for January.
In May, the province gave all workers up to three days of paid sick leave to support those affected by COVID-19 until Dec. 31.
At the time, Bains said the number of entitlement days under a permanent program would be determined through consultation.
The government has said about half of B.C. employees do not have access to paid sick leave.
On its website, the government says it expects new regulations to be passed to define permanent paid sick leave requirements in November and December.
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